Category Archives: Figuring It Out

And Life Goes On

A year ago I announced that my book series, Soul Broker, had been picked up for publication by Fantasy Works Publishing. Almost two months ago, the first book in the series, Soulless, officially hit the market.Celebrations were had, emotions ran high, and I was elevated to the pantheon of published authors, drinking ambrosia from the chalice of adulation. I quit my job, bought a house and hired a band to follow me around playing “Eye of The Tiger” as my own personal theme song.

Except…nope.

Despite childhood dreams to the contrary, most authors don’t get to quit their jobs, sit back and collect boatloads of royalties. I knew this going in, so I wasn’t surprised by it. I was well aware that as an unknown, first-time author, my book wasn’t going to propel me into the upper echelon of society and literary notoriety.

My life now is more or less the same as it was back then. I still have a day job, I am still blissfully married and still proud as hell at everything my son does. And I still write. The toil never gets any easier, it just gets grittier and the scars get deeper. I’m currently working on book two, while simultaneously deflecting questions from well meaning loved ones who constantly ask me whether I’ve made it rich yet (as if making it rich was ever one of my goals. I never believed financial success to be an accurate measure of a person’s worth).

I tell them no, and try to explain that it’s a process that needs to build over time, and that I never expected fame. Quite the opposite. If you’ve read any of my former posts, you’ll probably know that I am a social coma victim, and talking about my work with anyone ranks on same level to me as waterboarding. That’s something else that hasn’t changed.

The only thing that has changed is that now when people ask, “Hey what have you been up to?” I must adhere to the publishing contract that I signed in blood, and shamelessly–and very clumsily–reply with some variation of, “Oh, not much, just working on (insert current chapter here), and trying to make sure (insert random character here)’s voice is the same as it was in the first book. This usually prompts them to question what I’m talking about–or they ignore me–and that prompts me to try to sound nonchalant–which I define as not being a stuttering, sweaty mess–when I explain to them that I have published a book and am working on the sequel to said published book. Sometimes they ask for the name of said book, and sometimes they shrink away like Homer Simpson dissolving into the hedges to avoid Ned Flanders.giphy

If the former happens, I give them the name of the book, hope for a sale, and cease all further communication because I actually have to write book two. They walk away thinking I’m a conceited jerk because I have yet to develop proper social etiquette, and properly never will.

And that’s my life now in a nutshell. Not much different than it was before. Maybe it’ll stay like that forever, with me enjoying my craft while sharing it with the masses. Maybe my stories will one day hit it big, and I’ll be a household name (shivers in terror over that thought). In the meantime, life goes on, and that is great, because I am still working to improve, and grateful for my break. If it goes no further, I’ll still be happy every time I see a good review, because it means that someone had an enjoyable experience reading my book.

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Marketing Maladies

Hello everyone, I just popped on to vent a little. No, I’m not angry or anything like that, I just have an abundance of anxious energy surrounding me right now and I feel the need to channel it into something productive. What am I nervous about? Well, I’m glad that you asked. The answer is, I’m nervous about marketing my upcoming book, Soulless (due to be released on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold on March 8th, 2016). Yes, I’m now trained to say that every time I mention the book. It’s seriously become a Pavlovian response to hearing or speaking the word, ‘Soulless,’ (due to released on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold on March 8th 2016)–damn it!

Why am stressing this so much, one might ask? Well, it’s simple. As anyone who’s read any of my previous blogs will know, I am not exactly a social media butterfly, or even a social butterfly. I’m more like social moss because I only grow on the side of rock that no one touches or talks to. Once you add some mobility to the rock, I fall off and start anew somewhere else. Okay, so this isn’t an accurate analogy, but you get my point.

Being published by a smaller publishing company means you can’t just rely on name recognition to get your sales up. You have to share the responsibility of getting your name out there.The other day I tried talking up my book to people at work, and the results were awkward to watch and physically painful to endure. I was uncomfortable and gassy, and I couldn’t get the taste of bile out of my throat. Fine, maybe it was acid re-flux, but I blame it all on marketing.

As my release date rapidly approaches, I find that I made a huge marketing error when I chose not to publish my book under a pseudonym or pen name. I mean no one knows who Ismael Manzano is, but if I’d made up a name I could have chosen one that sounded enough like a popular author to have fooled readers into buying my book, Soulless (due to be released on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold on March 8th, 2016).

I know it sounds crazy, but imagine you’re perusing the bookshelves or the internet and you stumble across a “NEW RELEASE” by Steven King? Or J.R Kowling? Or George-George R. Martin? If you blink or just don’t pay close enough attention, you’ll have purchased yourself part one of my new series Soul Broker, and you’ll probably be halfway through it before you realize your mistake. The hope is that by that point, you’ll be so in love with the book that the incident goes from a clear legal case of false advertising to a comedic story about how you stumbled across your new favorite author, John Clancy.

But even if I had gone with a pen name as unheard of as my own name, the anonymity it would have offered me could have done wonders for my marketing strategy. By using my real name I’ve completely cut off a wellspring of techniques to get my name out there, like randomly talking about my new favorite writer Arthur Cross to every person I meet. They don’t have to know I’m talking about myself. Likewise, my idea for randomly throwing my business cards at people like Gambit from the X-men flies out the window because the card will lead them to my real name and information, and I wouldn’t want a bunch of strangers I’d just thrown laminated piecdes of paper at to know where they can find me. That’s just madness.

I guess, when all is said and done, I’ll just have to stick to less outlandish marketing strategies like joining writing groups and tweeting, facebooking, and just generally talking with like-minded people about my work and see if I can generate buzz about it. It seems impossible, I know, but I’m willing to give it a good go. Wish me luck, and I hope you’ll check out Soulless (due to released on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold on March 8th 2016).

 

We Have A Cover

fullcover

Okay. Just wanted to give you all a quick update on how things are going. Unless there’s a natural disaster, some form of Ragnarok, or a ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ this will be the full cover of my first novel. See, it has my name on it. No, no. It’s not a mistake. I checked. It’s really my name and it’s really going to be on the cover of a book–my book. What a coincidence, right? I’m as shocked as you all must be.

But wait! It doesn’t just end with the cover! No, it’s true. I can promise you words inside sentences, inside paragraphs, inside chapters. No I’m not kidding. It’s the damnedest thing I’d ever seen, but it’s there. Pinkie promise.

As I stated before, it becomes available on March 08th 2016. And I’ll keep everyone posted as any new updates occur.

Speaking of new updates. This just in:

Fantasy Works Publishing is opening its own Facebook group, for readers and potential readers of our work. You can get to know the wonderful authors here at FWP and the projects they’re working on. Every month we’ll have some games and giveaways, so join up and stay informed.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1674693329417893/?pnref=story

 

Crossing The Finish Line

Last year I put my foot on the literary starting line, lowered myself into position and waited for the pistol to signal it was time to run. Now, I don’t know how many months later, the famed and fabled publishing finish line is within my sight, almost close enough to touch. Just a couple of good long strides and I’m there. Victory! Applause! Confetti raining down like the blood of the enemies who stood in my path.

The fear. The worry. The griping of the guts. The sudden loss of hair.

I’m calm. I’m not panicking. I’m not. Who’s nervous? Why? What did you hear?

In simple terms, I’m nearly done with my first publication. The edits are done. The proofs are done. And my work is currently being formatted for Ebook layout, etc. Promotions will be starting soon. And I have a release date, and it’s not very far from now. March 08th, 2016. Not only is it not far, but it’s rapidly gaining on me. This is becoming a reality faster than I’d expected. I even have a hashtag (#SoulBroker). I wanted my hashtag to be #pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplasereadmybookthankyou. But for some reason my publisher wouldn’t go for it.

So all that’s left to do is fret and fuss and drive myself nuts thinking about all the stuff I hadn’t really had the time to think about before now. I may have mentioned this before, but when I first dreamed of becoming a writer, I pictured something akin to Thoreu’s ‘Walden,’ living by a pond in the woods, with nothing but nature and my typewriter. Just me and my work and nobody else. I imagined solitude and anonymity.

Hahahaha! Boy was I wrong. Now it’s promote! Promote! Promote! It’s schedule a book signing, talk yourself up and spread the word. It’s advance read copies and amazon reviews and trying not to shudder in fear whenever you hear that someone might actually read your work.  The further along this process goes the more I contemplate purchasing land in a swamp somewhere just so I have a viable rock to hide under. But unfortunately, until I make the New York Times bestsellers’ list, I won’t have the capital to purchase said swamp, and by that time hiding underneath my comfy little rock would be pointless.

So from this moment forth, all comfort zones get expanded or utterly abandoned, and I couldn’t be more petrified. I actually think I am more worried to succeed than I am to fail. That may seem counter-intuitive, but when I think about my release date, I don’t think, “What if I don’t make any sales,” I think, “Crap, what if I do?” I guess I got into a comfortable niche in my writing where I would write a story, send it in to a company, get rejected and then go back to the same grind with another story. After a while, I got used to the cycle and now that I’ve broken out of it, I have no clue what to expect. It’s all foreign waters under a starless night. If there’s a waterfall up ahead, will I even see it? Probably not, but in the end, it’s probably better  than being stuck in a loop for the rest of my life. So here’s hoping for a safe landing.  I hope everyone will take that journey with me.

And for those of you that are interested, my story, Soulless, is currently available for pre-order on amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Soulless-Soul-Broker-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01ATYM5XQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453305363&sr=1-1&keywords=9781944281083

You can also add it on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28637495-soulless?from_search=true&search_version=service

It will also be available on paperback, Nook and all other ebooks formats through Smashwords, on the aforementioned released date. That’s March 08th for those of you that don’t want to scroll back up to check.

I will keep everyone update as the book becomes available through other outlets.

Thank you everyone.

 

Editorial Edits

So my final round of edits (I think/hope/pray) have been completed. *Does celebration dance/throws confetti/collapses in exhausted heap* Figured I should touch base with everyone to keep you all appraised of the situation. I’ve moved from the super busy, nerve-racking phase, to the phase where I have an abundance of time on my hands that editing and re-editing had previous filled. Logically, I should be working on the next project, but somehow my mental gearshift is stuck in edits, and if I can’t shift to writing soon, I could very well damage my transmission–the mental kind, but I didn’t want to say that twice. SEE! Shift, damn you, shift!

I’m sure it’ll pass in time, and I hope that writing this blog provides me with the bridge I need between following directions and thinking freely. Which is really what the problem is. During editing, there comes a point where you have to shut down the brain–and the ego along with it–and soldier through the process, or you’ll never complete anything. Now that the process is done, I have to rev up all engines and light a fire under my cerebellum to get it going. That’s not to say that editing is a mindless job, quite the opposite, many times it forced me to think of things that I hadn’t thought before in order to explain or justify a character’s seemingly strange behavior. But when you spend 250 pages adding a comma, deleting a comma, adding a description, deleting your overly excessive repetitive redundant and unnecessarily worded descriptions, you go a little numb after a while. And you’re left feeling a bit wrung out.

I don’t know if everyone does this, but it’s hard for me now–post edits–not to look at every sentence I try to write with a super critical  eye. That can be good, but it can also stump the writing process for some–okay, for me. I need to be that wild stallion, rampaging free through the meadow, while I write. All with the understanding, of course, that all of that wildness will have to be broken in later for the benefit of both horse and rider.

So my plan is to take it easy for the holiday and start fresh next week, hitting the old laptop with new brainstorming ideas and hopefully start the New Year ‘write.’

In the meantime, check out this actually, authentic, factual, real life, totally non-fiction, transcription of a conversation between me and my editor. *(transcription may not contain any actual facts and may, in fact, be paraphrased from Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson ‘s climactic scene in A Few Good Men).

Editor: You want edits?

Me: I think I’m entitled!

Editor: You. Want. Edit?

Me: I want the ending the way it was!

Editor: You can’t have it the way it was! Son, you wrote a book that needs editing, and that editing needs to be done by men with objectivity. Whose going to do that, you? Your friends?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for your lost metaphors and you curse my suggestions. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That cutting that scene, saves the pacing. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, improves the novel.

You don’t want the ending the way it was because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you WANT me on those track changes. You NEED me on those track changes.

We use words like, ‘reads better with this,’ ‘out of character,’ and ‘over-the-top.’ We use these words as the backbone of the job spent correcting novels. You use them to start drama.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to someone who writes and rewrites under the blanket of the wisdom which I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.

I would rather you just said thank you and moved along. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a Chicago Manual of Style and edit your own work. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think your ending should be!*

*(No endings were changed in the editing of this novel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Sequels

When I started down this road of publishing my first book, I was filled with many emotions and thoughts. Oddly, the one thing I didn’t think about was what I would do next. The answer–when writing a series, of course–is, start writing the sequel. Simple, right? Well, my brain has other ideas. Specifically, it has every other idea on God’s green Earth except writing a sequel–including writing this blog so I can bitch and moan about how I can’t seem to focus on writing a sequel to my first book. The second most frequent distracting thought? I just discovered how to make popcorn at home that tastes just like my favorite movie theater’s popcorn. Mmmm. Seriously, that is some awfully good popcorn.  The secret is–damn it! I’m doing it again.

Strange as it may seem, though I’ve been trying my hand at a writing career for many, many, many, many, MANY, M-A-N-Y, years, I have yet to write a sequel to any of them. This surprise is made more surprising when you take into account that almost every book idea I’ve ever written was meant to be book one of a series. Since none of those ‘Book ones’ was picked up by a publisher, I never ended up wasting my time writing sequels to a book that might not get picked up or was clearly not polished enough to get picked up. It was better to either rewrite the unwanted manuscript or move onto another, starting from scratch.

I have, however, written de facto sequels or what I like to call, ‘grandfathered’ sequels. This may be unique to me, but I have a habit of writing an entire book as backstory for another book. I usually end up liking this ‘backstory’ book even more than the original book, and then end up trying to publish the prequel as the new book one. I’ve done this so often that I have a nine part book series that I’ve written completely in reverse. The downside is, as I go backwards in time, I find more and more things that will need to be changed in the original books. Plus, I keep coming up with more ideas for other prequels.  If this doesn’t stop I’ll end up writing about two little protozoic cells, waving little protozoic wands and casting the first spells against each other in a a bid to gain more protozoic magic. Heeeeey…That’s not bad.

Anyway, all of that changed when Fantasy Works Publishing  came along, with their wild idea for actually publishing one of my stories.  Wouldn’t you know it–now I have to write an actual, bona fide sequel. Who gave them permission to do a whacky thing like that? Oh. Yeah. That’s right. I did. What was I thinking?

So now I’m doing the thing where I have to take a character and a story I love, and extended it another 300 or so pages. Worse yet, I have to remember key details about said character and said story that I would have otherwise never needed to think about again. I have to make sure the character has grown since the last story, but still keep all of their behavior within the personality framework I’d established in the last book. Basically, I have to do everything equally good or better than I had in the last book. I finally understand the filmmakers tendency to screw up their sequels by throwing needless explosions and lazily repeating the plot of the original movie. Making sequels can be difficult and nerve racking. At least for me it is.  I find myself questioning every sentence, wondering if that was how I’d describe something the last time, or if this or that person is in character. Luckily, I have the editors at Fantasy Works Publishing to help me out with that problem.

Seriously, the pressure is enough to make my head pop like a kernel of corn…Hmmm, popcorn. That sounds yummy.

Publishing Update

lastcover1Hello everyone. Exciting news. The final version of my book cover is here. Tiffany Heiser, Fantasy Works Publishing’s newest Graphic Artist, just finished it, and I couldn’t wait to share it. It’s all coming together, and I look forward to the post announcing my book’s official release date.

Please check out Tiffany’s website at: http://tiffanykaesdesigns.weebly.com/

And her facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Tiffany-Kaes-Designs-693853704084908/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel&__mref=message_bubble

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s this manuscript’s blurb:

The devil’s not the only one buying souls; both sides need them  to fight their war, and both have something to offer in return. Nearly anything is possible if you’re the type of soul they’re looking for. Charlotte Furio learns this the hard way, when a spirited and mysterious woman named Trisha follows her home one night and offers her ailing father a simple choice: a healthy body for his immortal soul.

 His decision introduces Charlotte to the world of soul brokering, and Charlotte is not only drawn to it, but finds she has a knack for it. Having lived the last decade of her life with only one purpose—to care for her increasingly disabled father—Charlotte sees this as her chance to give direction and meaning to her own life, and the lives of others. To help them, as she had helped her father.

 Her mission is quickly derailed when Charlotte is framed for the murder of one of the brokers’ leaders. Where she once had only one purpose, now Charlotte has two— get her father’s soul back, and find a way to prove her innocence before it’s too late.